ASBMB-Merck Award for Manajit Hayer-Hartl
The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology honors Manajit Hayer-Hartl with the 2020/2021 ASBMB-Merck Award.
Photosynthesis is vital for life on earth. The central step of this process is catalyzed by the enzyme Rubisco, which allows the incorporation of CO2 from the atmosphere into organic matter. However, in plants, this essential enzyme operates only with limited efficiency. How can this enzyme’s function be optimized? Manajit Hayer-Hartl and her team were the first researchers able to synthesize plant Rubisco in Escherichia coli. Previous to this breakthrough, it was unknown how to synthesize plant Rubisco in the lab because of its complicated assembly comprising eight large and eight small subunits. The research group identified the chaperones and factors necessary for the Rubisco folding and assembly process, which includes four Rubisco specific chaperones from plants. By adding the chaperones, the team produced a functional plant Rubisco in the lab. This breakthrough opens up future possibilities for optimizing the enzyme’s function with the potential to increase crop performance.
About the Awardee
Hayer-Hartl received her Bachelor of Science degree at the University of Stirling, Scotland, UK, where she afterwards gained her PhD. Her interest in structural and cellular biology motivated her to several postdoctoral fellowships at renowned research institutions, among them the Louis Pasteur Institute in Strasbourg, France and the Sloan-Kettering Institute in New York, USA. Hayer-Hartl joined the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry in 1997 as a group leader in the department “Cellular Biochemistry”. Since 2006, she is head of the research group “Chaperonin-assisted Protein Folding”. Her research focuses on chaperones and how these molecular machines assist in proper protein folding and assembly. Hayer-Hartl is an elected member of the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) and of the German National Academy of Sciences (Leopoldina). For her research, she has previously received the Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin Award (Protein Society) and the Charles F. Kettering Award (American Society of Plant Biologists).